Why we aren't OFFICIALLY supporting Linuxulator or WINE on the Potabi Systems project?

 This article was originally posted in the wrong blogger channel - I posted it in one of my personals, not this one. Sorry about that!

Well the answer is quite simple, we want more applications to work on Potabi. Something people tend to forget, especially in the Linux ecosystems, is that these compatibility emulators are not useful to actually supporting applications, and actually even hurt Linux. Wait, compatibility emulators? WINE/Proton are more harmful than helpful? Having tools to make applications work on your operating system actually makes fewer applications work on your operating system? Yes, yes, and yes. Let me explain.

First, what even is a "compatibility emulator"? In software support there are multiple layers of support. At the top, highest layer is official native. Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Edge both are Windows "official native" software. Meaning it is officially supported by the developers. The next layer down is unofficial native. These applications - mostly open source ones - aren't officially supported on a given platform but still natively function. For example, GNOME as a desktop environment isn't officially supported on FreeBSD, however, can still be natively installed and ran on the system. 

Now, here is where things quickly become tricky, as we are now in "unsupported" territory. Unlike official and unofficial native, these layers are mostly independent from each other. These do come with mostly personal definitions, but mostly because we aim to better define what is what. The one you hear attributed a ton to things that are not that are compatibility layers. Technically, only one major operating system has a serious compatibility layer, Windows. This is one major thing Windows has done better than any other OS, but it is certainly no easy feat. Applications that were made for Windows 1.0 still often work in Windows 11. This is because Windows applications run on a compatibility layer from DOS-based Windows, and NT-based Windows. It still is native, unlike the following two, but it is certainly difficult to maintain.

But what about WINE and Linuxulator? What are those? The Potabi Foundation classifies them as "compatibility emulators." Not to be confused with emulators (or as we nicknamed them "pure emulators"), a compatibility emulator essentially near-natively runs these applications via a layer of emulated compatibility. These are a close cousin to unofficial native applications. What these layers do is make the application run thinking it is on a supported system, and makes them run as close to natively as possible. Unlike emulators/"pure emulators", they are not emulating the software by any means, only just translating the host systems calls to what the application would expect if it was running on an officially native platform.

But wait, why is this bad? Well, it's more by our definition a bad deal. This definition came because of what we have seen from game developers when it comes to supporting Linux. Mind you, these developers have every right not to support Linux, Potabi, FreeBSD, etc.

 

While S&box, the game Garry Newman (the namesake of Garry's mod, the predecessor to S&box), is fully supportive of players using Proton to support Linux, there is "no plans to support Linux natively." This caused us to rethink "what is native support?"

Essentially, it has to be either a true compatibility layer, like what Windows has, or unofficial/official native support. Proton is an extension of WINE developed by the Valve team, and understanding what Garry Newman essentially defined is that of the top 1000 games on Steam, only ~230 actually have Linux support. This, even if you will not be able to play ~60 of the top 1000 games at all. That leaves ~710, or 71% of the top 1000 being "playable, but not technically available."

But is this a bad thing? Yes. Very. If Proton all of the sudden vanishes without a trace, that 71% of games - whether the developer wanted it or not - join that 6% of games that simply will not work on Linux what-so-ever. While unlikely, there is the possibility Microsoft shuts down the WINE project, or some kind of catastrophic change happens where Proton and WINE no longer function.

But developers will support these systems natively, right? Wrong. Just look at what Garry Newman said here. He proves that these systems are going to become a core dependency for alternative operating systems, lest Valve pushes for NATIVE Linux support.

But wait, Potabi isn't Linux!? How would I get these games and all that? Well, you can personally run these compatibility emulators like Linuxulator yourself. We want to push for natively supported applications at all costs. 

So what do we mean by "Why we aren't OFFICIALLY supporting Linuxulator or WINE on the Potabi Systems project?" Essentially, they won't be supported by default, and even possibly restricted (not banned or removed, just restricted) from the package manager to discourage its use a little bit to make sure we don't get Linux's situation where more apps are supporting WINE than Linux.

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